Call Of Duty ESports Thriving Down Under

Australian Team Immunity pro gamer Albert “Nakeeeze” Nassif talks Call of Duty Ghosts.
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Pro gaming is a global phenomenon. Australia has a growing eSports base of fans and pros. While gamers from Down Under were previously an afterthought within the global scope of competitive gaming, things changed at the Call of Duty Championship 2014 competition.

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The Australian team Trident T1dotters came in fifth in the competition, taking home $70,000. And the other Aussies, Team Immunity, gave North American power houses a run for the money during the competition. Albert “Nakeeeze” Nassif of Team Immunity gives us the scoop on the rising tide of eSports in Australia in this exclusive interview.

How have you seen the Call of Duty Championship evolve?

Nassif: “Coming here last year was a great event and this year was a massive event.  The venue is a lot bigger and everything is more spaced out. There are a lot more people, so it’s a better atmosphere with a huge crowd. There’s always people cheering and the whole event really evolved to the next level. It’s really good to be a part of it.”

Now the Americans are used to playing against each other. What advantage did Australian teams have at the COD Championship?

Nassif: “They really underrated us. They probably thought they could go on Easy mode and I don’t think it’s paid off. They get to play the other top American teams, so they’re really experienced in what they do and they know how to win, what they need to do.  They’re used to playing better teams, so they can progress better. We’re used to playing the same level of teams, so we don’t actually get that chance to find those better players and improve ourselves.

What do you feel differentiates your play style?

Nassif: “What separates us is that we don’t get to play other top teams from Europe and America often, so we’re stuck playing our same Australian teams. We don’t really get to learn all these different play styles and develop and evolve our gameplay to their level. So it’s really hard to compete, but we’ve done a really good job at this tournament.”

How popular is eSports in Australia?

Nassif: “It’s almost non-existent. There are only a few games, so we don’t have as many things as Korea, America or Europe has. We’re really low on the food chain, but hopefully we can make an impact and help Australian teams start building our reputation in eSports.”

What does coming to a tournament like COD Championship do for you guys when you head back home?

Nassif: “We build on it. Hopefully, we did a good job and proved that they deserve to send us back to a future event by any other organizer, not only for just Call of Duty Championship. But for other things, which will also help us in the future.”

How did you get involved in eSports?   

Nassif: “I was playing public Call of Duty around four or five years ago and eventually found my way into a clan. I was doing pretty good and three years later after that I found myself on Team Immunity.”

How does Ghosts compare to Black Ops II?

Nassif: “I really like Black Ops II as opposed to Ghosts. That was my favorite game so far. I liked Black Ops I as well, but you have to play whatever game is there. You can’t really complain. They hold these events here and they send you to LA and really you should just be thankful for what you get.”

What’s it like for you guys coming here to LA?

Nassif: “It’s a long, long flight. It doesn’t happen often and you really want to make the best of it and go see everything. You do as best as you can in the event and just have a good time and just really be thankful for what you’re getting.”

Last year right across the street League of Legends sold out the Staples Center. What are your thoughts about how eSports seems to be growing in other countries?

Nassif: “Even for League of Legends in Australia, the Oceanic region, they have $160,000 in total prize pool just for our tiny region. That’s more money than I’ve ever seen in COD, besides competing in these events. So it’s just amazing that players even in our region are starting to get that sort of recognition, and everyone, in general. There are going to be lots of viewers and if this exposure gets out more people will actually start watching. Hopefully eventually we can catch up to those mainstream sports.”

Now the name sport is right in there with eSports. How do you feel that this team-based video game is like a real sport?

Nassif: “It carries so many of the same traits and sports does. You need teamwork and all those other things, but also it does not discriminate against anyone for height, strength, or any of that.  Anyone can play, which is why it’s such an open market and there’s all these different people where you don’t find just athletic people. You find all different types of people when you start to meet other people and have an appreciation for what you’re playing.”

When it comes to Call of Duty Ghosts, what’s a favorite map you like to play and give us some advice for playing it?

Nassif: “I like to play Blitz, so I really enjoy using a submachine gun running through as fast as I can in a marathon and focus on just trying to get in as many gunfights as I can and take down opponents into their spawn, so my team can just keep relaying flags and start taking over the map.”

Who’s your go-to guy and why?

Nassif: “Our go-to guy is definitely Shocks.  He was voted Best Player last year for Black Ops II and he’s also very good at Ghosts.”

What weapons do you like to play with?

Nassif: “I like to use the MTAR or the Remington, but mostly you’ll see me running 99 percent of the time in MTAR.”

What’s a favorite memory from your career thus far?

Nassif: “Oh, definitely beating EnVyUs. I remember looking at the crowd, seeing everyone’s faces and everyone was amazed that we were this random team. We started from the bottom and they really underrated us. It gives us an appreciation that people are finally starting to take us seriously, and not as a joke. That’s good not only for us, but also for the whole community.”

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John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site